This was a piece we were asked to write for inclusion in Rivendell's Blug
718 Cyclery is a full service bike shop in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Founded in 2008, our focus has always been working collaboratively with our customers. 718 Cyclery was founded on the principle that we are practitioners of 100+ year old technology, not the guardians of it. We strive to create an environment where arrogance and attitude have no place.
I was an architect for 20 years (still licensed), and started getting involved with bikes later in life. I was a messenger in NYC in the 80’s, but really wasn't attached to the culture. I started building things with my hands as a reaction to the digital life that I was living, and as a way to connect with a life my hands and I once knew. Now I ride my Salsa Fargo around Brooklyn with frame bags like a backwoods freak.
We are a destination shop, meaning that people seek us out. We are not defined by what we sell, but by who we are. We have built a business around what interests us, and that is the full business plan (seriously). We have determined that getting our customers interested in what gets us going is a way to grow a sustainable business.
We build bikes with our customers, inviting them in on the process. Again, getting them excited about what excites us is a great way to create a relationship that is far beyond a cash register transaction. Buying a bike off the rack takes 30 minutes, building a bike with us draws us into your world.
We are very interested in bike camping, mountain biking and cargo bikes. Those first 2 may seem strange for a shop in Brooklyn, but we have tapped into a desire that urban dwellers have to escape, be it only for a few hours or a weekend. We take trips and go on (off) road rides on a regular basis, which is decidedly not the NYC way to run a shop ride (think Power Meters and pace-lines).
We are an independent local bike shop, and proud to not carry one of the “Big 3” bike brands. We sell what we use and what we ride, which makes selling easy as we have no sales staff. We don't care how much things cost on the internet, because we are not competing on price. We focus on what the internet can't match, which is a human connection. As Matthew Crawford says, “You can't hammer a nail over the internet”.
We teach free classes every week. In an age of “cashing in”, we keep these classes free, as we feel that nothing that we do is very proprietary anyway. Other shops tell us we should charge $5 of $10, and I love hearing that. I enjoy knowing we are swimming away from them and their 1950’s version of Main Street retail. When that student tells their friend the next day about our shop, we get a peer-to-peer recommendation, which is the most coveted referral in the world of advertising. For free.
We have the best staff in NYC. It has taken me a few years to utter that out loud and in print, but if you saw what I see every day, you’d agree. I tell my (bookkeeping) wife that money spent on staff is the best money we could be spending.